Cayenne is used both as medicine and food. There are different varieties of cayenne peppers, and they all contain capsaicin in different amounts. Capsaicin gives the peppers a hot and spicy taste, by switching on the same nerve ending that switches on when you’re feeling heat greater than 110 degrees F.  As a medicine, it acts as a systemic stimulant, regulating blood flow and strengthening the heart, capillaries, arteries and veins. As a general tonic, it strengthens nerves, circulatory system and digestive system. It is useful for flatulent dyspepsia, colic, cold hands and feet, chilblains, and other circulatory insufficiencies. Applied externally to a wound, it can stop bleeding. It has been used in heart attacks.  It improves one’s appetite and stimulates the secretion of digestive juices. It warms the stomach and helps in the removal of toxins. It is useful in all illnesses as a circulatory stimulant and antimicrobial. An an analgesic, it can be applied in a cream externally.

Common Name of the Herb: Cayenne

Latin Name: Capsicum annuum

Parts Used: fruit, either fresh or dried

Actions: Appetizer, analgesic, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, rubefacient, sialagogue, local and systemic stimulant, tonic, anti-catarrhal,  antimicrobial.

Preparation and Use: Used in cooking. For external use it is available in cream form. To start, it may be taken as one capsule of powder or 1/4″ mixed with a small amount of water. For infusion, pour one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of cayenne and let it stand for ten minutes. One teaspoon of infusion can be mixed with hot water and drunk when needed, or combined with myrrh to form a gargle for laryngitis or an antiseptic wash.  Also used as a tincture and may be combined with other herbs to aid circulation of the herb to all parts of the body. Used with four other vegetables to make Immune Tonic.

Cautions and Limitations of Use:

Handle cayenne pepper carefully. If possible, wear gloves when preparing it and wash your hands afterwards. Cayenne is an irritant (rubefacient) that can cause inflammation and irritation of the skin. During preparation, the air may become infused with cayenne, and you may breathe it in. This is annoying, but not harmful.

To acclimate your body to cayenne, start with a small amount and gradually increase.

Just before or after exercise, cayenne pepper may cause a temporary stomachache.

Caution for all herbs and foods: Stop using if you experience symptoms of allergy.  Seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms of a serious allergic reaction including difficulty breathing; closing of your throat; swelling of your lips, tongue, or face; or hives. People who are allergic to other foods in the chili pepper family may be allergic to cayenne.

Consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking prescription medications, regarding possible interactions.

If in doubt about the safety of any herb, consult a doctor with special knowledge and experience with herbs.

Extra Information:

Constituents: essential oils, capsaicin, caretenoids, flavonids, oleic acid, stearic acids, palmitic acid, vitamin C

Growing the Herb: Sow the seeds indoors six to eight weeks before the projected last frost. Cayenne seeds need light to germinate so just press them into the germination mix. Seedlings will be available in three weeks. These should be replanted outdoors once soil temperature is at least 70 degrees. Plant them 12 inches apart in rich, sandy loam.

How to Gather: When harvesting the fruits, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands afterwards.

Other English Common Names: African Pepper, bird’s eye chili, guinea pepper, cocksbur pepper, Spanish Pepper, Zanzibar Pepper

Where it Grows: Originally, Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Zanzibar, and other parts of Africa. At present, it may be grown in  home gardens all over the world. In the US, it grows well in USDA Zones 5-12.

How to Identify: The cayenne shrub grows to a height of 24”. The leaves are elliptical, slightly leathery, dark green and smooth. The flowers produce pods (hollow fruit) of flat, white, pungent seeds. These pods (peppers) are green when immature and change to purple, red, orange or yellow when ripe.